I was hoping that I could write this awesome post for you about how great climbing around the city of Santander is. Unfortunately I couldn’t get much climbing in. However I don’t want to withhold any information that I was able to gather. So here it is, my post about climbing and more in this beautiful portion of Cantabria.
I was in this area from halfway through January till the end of February. In that time we had many days of rain and hardly ever enough days in a row of dry weather for the rock to properly dry out. In the end I went climbing for a total of two days and one day I did a via ferrata.
The weather wasn’t the only factor. Having an available climbing partner also was a problem. A friend of my host climbs but is only available on weekends.
This isn’t a destination that you’d travel to just for climbing. However if you are a climber and in the area for other reasons then I think this post can help you in finding your way around. Because some of the routes that are out here are worth your time.
Traveling to Santander
There are various ways to travel to this area. The city of Santander has it all; ferry, train, airport and highways of course. So getting here is not the problem. But getting to the spread out crags is a different story. A car is mandatory to get where you need to be.
Where to stay
This is a very popular touristic area, so there are more than enough campgrounds, hotels, etc to choose from. If you do want to come to this area to focus on climbing and other mountain sports, I’d suggest staying in, or close to; Ramales de la Victoria or La Hermida. Those two areas have the highest concentration of routes. There is also the Climbers House in Arce that you could stay at, but I wasn’t very impressed with them; see under climbing partner.
There is a guide for climbing and bouldering in the Ramales area, it can be found in the NOR3 shop in town there. I didn’t buy the guide, but it looked like it was a good one. However, it’s fully in Spanish. I’m not sure about other guides for the area, Indian Rock, a bouldering gym in Santander, didn’t sell any guides. Many people use online guides for the smaller crags. I could find most of them through the Climbing Away website.
If you’re most comfortable climbing 5’s (French grading), then this isn’t your place. Most of the routes are 6a and harder, with the most routes being more in the 7th grade.
I climbed at two different crags, Ramales and Escobedo. The crag in Escobedo is an old quarry, the climbing style there is very technical. Often the only good option to hold on to are the drilled holes that will fit two fingers. The crag has a U-shape that opens up to the North, which is great when it’s hot, but when you’re waiting for the rock to dry then it’s not ideal.
The crags in Ramales mostly face South and vary from slab to steep overhangs. On weekends when the weather is good the main crag, with the easiest routes, is completely in use. Make sure you get there early to make sure that you have some choice of route.
On one of my last days in the area I also was able to visit the crag that is closest to Santander. I didn’t climb but luckily I was able to watch some others climbing there. It’s called La Arnia and offers not too many routes, but the location is very beautiful. Wait for low tide if you can, if you plan to climb there, since the lines are really at the water’s edge.
The area has some great via ferratas to check out. The website of Turismo de Cantabria has a list of all the available routes. I ended up climbing Via Ferrata del Caliz. It was an easy and entertaining route of about an hour long. The descent of the via ferrata wasn’t difficult, but after we climbed it for the second time and decided to go down through the path towards the right we ended up being in a longer hike than planned. Either the directions were wrong or we just didn’t understand through the lack of Spanish knowledge, but we skipped a right turn that we should’ve taken. We made it back fine in the end and the hike was beautiful, but I wouldn’t want to make this mistake too late in the day.
When selecting a via ferrata in this area, make sure that you check out what gear you need. Some need more than the traditional gear, the other route in Ramales has a zip-line that you need special gear for. All gear can be rented from the NOR3 shop. We sent them a whatsapp the day before. We had a speedy reply and were helped excellent.
Many routes in Ramales are long, so be aware that your rope is long enough for the line you choose. With an 80 m rope you’ll be fine to climb pretty much any route there. In Escobedo and La Arnia the routes are very short, with a maximum height of about 15 meters. The setup of anchors vary from line to line. I’ve seen just two round bolts, a chain linked anchor with a ring and chain linked anchors with various types of carabiners.
I believe there are trad routes in the area as well, but most of it is sport climbing.
It’s very difficult to find a climbing partner in this area, especially if you don’t speak Spanish. The bouldering gym Indian Rock has probably the best chance of finding partners. Or you could try your luck and drive to the crags of Ramales. On days with good weather you’ll surely find climbers there, but you’d better speak some spanish otherwise it’s hard to get into any kind of conversation. The people are friendly and open to talk, but I’m not sure if it’s possible to ask if you can join.
The last place that you might be able to find a partner is at the Climbers House. Since I had a place to stay I wrote them an email if anyone there would be interested in climbing with me. Unfortunately they never got back to me. Maybe it had to do with the Covid pandemic or that they also didn’t speak English. I’m not sure, but I was disappointed.
What else to do
As I said, this area is a very popular tourist area. Many historic towns to be seen and a stunning green landscape with sharp cliffs at the sea. Beaches are each unique and have their own attraction.
The hikes I really enjoyed were at Parque Natural de las Dunas de Liencres, the hike from Urdon to Tresviso and the hike to Cascadas de Lamina.
Of course with so much sea there are loads of watersports to be done. I’ve seen that there are tons of surf schools to choose from. And if you’re more into winter sports then you only need to drive about an hour and a half from Santander towards the Picos de Europa to enjoy some snow action.
- Climbers House – https://www.climbers-house.com/en/home/
- Indian Rock – https://indianrock.es/
- NOR3 – https://nor3.com/
- Climbing Away – https://climbingaway.fr/es/escuelas/mapa-del-mundo-de-las-escuelas/espagne/comunidad-autonoma-de-cantabria
- Turismo de Cantabria – https://turismodecantabria.com/descubrela/vias-ferratas